Skip to comments.Essays for Lent/Easter: Annulment
Posted on 04/10/2012 5:55:12 PM PDT by Salvation
by Sebastian R. Fama
Quite often you will hear an annulment described as a Catholic divorce. But an annulment and a divorce are two different things. Divorce dissolves a marriage while an annulment is a recognition that a sacramental marriage (valid in the eyes of the Church) never existed. The Church does recognize, however, that a civil marriage (valid in the eyes of the state) did exist.
In order for a marriage to be valid in the eyes of the Church, both parties must be aware of what constitutes a sacramental marriage. They must also be free, willing and capable of entering into such a commitment. Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, a couple is deficient in one or more of these areas. It is not unusual for such a couple to be unaware of this at the time they are married. This, of course, illustrates why careful preparation before marriage is so important.
Consequently, an annulment proceeding is concerned with the situation as it existed at the time the marriage took place. Subsequent events are important only insofar as they shed light on relevant conditions that may have pre-existed the marriage. If serious problems were present at the beginning of the marriage, there is a good chance that they were present before the marriage. Of course this must never be assumed. However, if such was the case it could have been an impediment to a valid marriage.
The grounds necessary for an annulment can in no way be construed as a loophole or a way out of a valid marriage. A valid marriage can never be annulled, "What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder" (Mark 10:9).
There are a number of reasons why a marriage could be declared invalid. They can be divided into two types of cases, Formal and Documentary. Within the Formal category the most practical grounds are divided into three sub categories: (1) Psychological (2) Simulation of Consent (3) Force and Fear. Under psychological grounds a variety of factors are considered. Both parties must be able to grasp and assume the responsibilities of a lifelong commitment. Both must be mature, financially responsible, free from mental illness, and possess a sufficient use of reason. Additionally, spouses must have the ability to cope with ordinary stresses. Homosexuality would also be considered under this category.
Under Simulation of Consent both parties must be open to all that marriage entails. Both must enter marriage with the intention to be faithful. Both must be open to the possibility of children. If either party excludes from the beginning any essential element of marriage, the marriage is invalid. In order for valid consent to take place you must be aware of what is required and you must agree to it internally and externally.
Under Force and Fear both parties must give their consent freely. No one should marry because of any outside threat or pressure. For example, marriage is not something to be used as an escape from abusive parents. Neither is it to be seen as a necessary result of pre-marital pregnancy.
Within the Documentary category we find two sub categories: (1) Defect of Form, and (2) Previous Bond. Concerning Defect of Form, the Catholic Church has a set of requirements for what constitutes a proper marriage ceremony. If the specified procedures are not followed, the marriage is not considered to be valid. For instance: if a couple was married by a Justice of the Peace and at least one of the parties was Catholic, the marriage would be invalid. If the marriage took place before a non-Catholic minister without the permission of the bishop, the marriage would also be invalid. As for Previous Bond, a Catholic with a previous valid marriage may not contract another marriage while the first spouse is still alive.
You do not have to worry about confronting a former spouse during the annulment process. In fact the vast majority of cases involve only the submission of paperwork by your parish priest. Also, the granting of an annulment does nothing to affect the legitimacy of any children produced by the marriage. Finally, the fee charged for an annulment does not even cover the cost of the process and is usually much lower than one would expect. If a petitioner cannot pay, the case will still go through. So cost should never be an excuse for not seeking an annulment.
In this essay I have dealt with the annulment process in general terms. Anyone considering the process should explore the subject in more detail with a parish priest.
Copyright © 2004 StayCatholic.com
For Further Study
Books - Annulments and the Catholic Church by Edward Peters, J.D., J.C.D
Essays for Lent/Easter: Divorce and Remarriage
Essays for Lent: Marriage
Essays for Lent: Natural Family Planning
Essays for Lent: Contraception
Essays for Lent: Abstinence
Essays for Lent: The Rapture
Essays for Lent: Call No Man Father
Essays for Lent: Scapulars Medals and Relics
Essays for Lent: Statues and Holy Pictures
Essays for Lent: The Rosary
Essays for Lent: The Assumption
Essays for Lent: The Immaculate Conception
Essays for Lent: Mary Ever-Virgin
Essays for Lent: Praying to Saints
Essays for Lent: Indulgences
Essays for Lent: Purgatory
Essays for Lent: Confession
Essays for Lent: The Eucharist
Essays for Lent: The Mass
Essays for Lent: Baptism
Essays for Lent: Justification
Essays for Lent: Tradition
Essays for Lent: Scripture Alone
Essays for Lent: The Canon of Scripture
Essays for Lent: Papal Infallibility
Essays for Lent: The Pope
Essays for Lent: The Church
Essays for Lent: The Bible
Essays for Lent: The Trinity
Essays for Lent: Creationism or Evolution?
True. Although in the days since Vatican II I think there have been some abuses of the rules. Teddy Kennedy’s annulment was one example, IMHO.
Much depends on the faithfulness of the diocesan bishop and his staff.
I’m a little hesitant about accepting anything Ed Peters has to say, having seen the stubbornness and lack of logic he displayed recently in the Saint John Neumann lesbian situation.
You’re not alone.
You’re not alone.
Marriage to the LORD or married to another person in front of the LORD should stay together till physical passing away. Spirit in faith lingers on. DEFINITELY an AMEN to this!!
We need to remember that marriage is both a vocation and a Sacrament. As created by God, its primary purpose and chief beneficiaries are not the wedded couple. The institution must put as its prime objective the needs and well being of the subsequent generations. The Church has and takes a lot of grief over it. As Catholics we must work to make Society and culture embrace this too.
This is what is meant by a higher love. In the context of marriage it is important that we understand love and that a man and a woman must not only fall in love with each other as they do with what St. Thomas Aquinas called a transcendental third. That third thing that a successful married couple must fall in love with is the "us" of the marriage and its mission. Absent that any marriage is based upon an infatuation and a love of self; I love how she makes me feel, or I love how she looks, or I love how others look at me when I am with her. All marriages so founded are doomed from the beginning to fail.
**I have even heard my own clergy lament that it is easier for a serial rapist or ax murder to receive the Eucharist than a divorced person.**
It is my understanding that as long as a divorced person does not remarry — they can receive the Eucharist.
You, as usual, are correct, but the discussion I was recounting was in the context of remarriage.
Or if they remarry and live as brother and sister.